Spinach, Onion, and Feta Quiche

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you really want to impress your guests for Sunday brunch, this is it! I first found this recipe in an NPR article. On September 13, 2009, I had the time and a good excuse to make it. And it was unbelievably fabulous. I’m reprinting the recipe below exactly as it appeared, but with photos of my own result. Instead of the standard Quiche Lorraine, I decided to go for a meatless combination and substituted a mixture inspired by my wife’s family spanakopita recipe: 10 oz. of frozen spinach, thawed and with all water squeezed out; 2 medium-sized onions, chopped finely and sautéed in butter over medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes; a cup (or a little less) of crumbled feta cheese; 3 chopped scallions, and 2 teaspoons of oregano. I used this mixture in place of the bacon-onion combination in the original recipe, layering it inside the pre-baked crust together with the custard mixture and a cup of grated Emmentaler cheese. (The recipe calls for a half cup, but I doubled it because I like cheese.) Also, because I was a bit pressed for time, I didn’t chill it for eight hours after baking as the recipe recommends. But I didn’t notice that the end result was any less scrumptious.

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Quiche Lorraine
by Michael Ruhlman

The quiche has been misunderstood in America since it crossed the Atlantic from France and tried to fit itself into pie shell. A proper quiche shell must be deep enough to allow you to cook the custard properly, which is why it is traditionally cooked in a 2-inch by 9-inch ring mold. Ring molds are inexpensive and can be found in many kitchenware stores, but you might also use a 2-inch cake pan provided you line the bottom with parchment paper. If you cook a custard in a pie shell, even if you cook it perfectly and don’t overcook it — which is easy to do — when it’s so thin, the custard is too shallow to offer its fundamental pleasure, which is a luxurious texture.

A quiche can be garnished inside with anything that goes well with eggs. Traditional garnishes include spinach and mushrooms, but you might just as easily replace those with roasted poblano peppers and Mexican chorizo. Cheese is usually a component, and for the former, you’d use a Compte or similar cheese, but for the latter you might use Jack cheese.

The recipe below is for a classical quiche Lorraine, which designates a bacon and onion garnish, my favorite quiche.

2 large Spanish onions, thinly sliced
Canola oil as needed
1 3-2-1 savory pie dough (see recipe below)
1 pound slab bacon cut into 1/4-inch lardons*
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups milk
1 cup cream
6 eggs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Nutmeg to taste (about 5 gratings)
1/2 cup grated Compté or Emmentaler cheese

Sauté the onions over medium heat in a few tablespoons of canola oil. You might cover them for the first 15 minutes to get them steaming and releasing their moisture, then uncover, reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking them until they are cooked down but not overly brown, about 45 minutes to an hour. Set them aside when they’re finished.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Place a 2-x-9-inch ring mold or a 9-inch cake pan on a baking sheet (line baking sheet with parchment if you’re using a ring mold; if you’re using a cake pan, line its bottom with parchment). Lightly oil the inside of your ring mold. Lay the dough into the mold — there should be plenty of dough overhanging the edges to help it maintain its shape.

Reserve a small piece of dough to fill any cracks that might open in the dough as it bakes. Line the dough with parchment or foil and fill it with dried beans or pie weights so that the crust bakes flat. After a half hour, remove the weights and parchment or foil. Gently patch any cracks that may have formed with the reserved dough, and continue baking until the bottom of the crust is golden and cooked, about 15 more minutes. Remove it from the oven and patch any cracks that may have opened; this is especially important if you’re using a ring mold, or the batter will leak out. The shell should be anywhere between cold and warm when you add the batter, not piping hot from the oven.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Sauté the bacon gently until it’s cooked as you like it (crisp on the outside, tender on the inside is best!). Drain the bacon and combine it with the onions.

In a six- or eight-cup liquid measure, combine the milk, cream, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg and, using a hand blender, blend until frothy. This can be done in a standing blender as well (though depending on the size of your blender, you may need to divide the quantities in half). Or you could even mix the batter in a large bowl using a whisk (beat the eggs first, then add the rest of the ingredients. The idea will be to add the ingredients in two layers, using the froth to help keep the ingredients suspended.

Layer half of the onion-bacon mixture into the shell. Pour half the frothy custard over the mixture. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Layer with the remaining onion-bacon mixture. Refroth the batter and pour the rest into the shell. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. You may want to put the tray with the quiche shell into the oven and pour the remaining batter into it there so that you can get every bit of batter into the shell. You can even let it overflow to make sure it’s up to the very top. Bake in the 325 degree oven for about an hour and a half, or until the center is just set (it may take as long as two hours, but don’t overcook itthere should still be some jiggle in the center).

Allow the quiche to cool, then refrigerate it until it’s completely chilled, eight hours or up to three days.

Using a sharp knife, cut the top of the crust off along the rim. Slide the knife along the edge of the ring mold or cake pan to remove the quiche.

Slice and serve cold, or, to serve hot, slice and reheat for ten minutes in a 375 degree oven on lightly oiled parchment or foil.

* Lardons are batons of bacon and can be as thick as 1/2-inch square. Smaller lardons are best here, but a pound of thick-cut bacon sliced into strips is also acceptable.

3-2-1 Savory Pie Dough

12 ounces flour
8 ounces butter (or lard, shortening or any combination thereof), cut into small pieces, cold or even frozen
2 to 4 ounce ice water (quantity depends on the fat — whole butter has water in it so you only need a couple ounces; shortening and lard do not contain water)
three-finger pinch of salt (about 1/2 teaspoon)

Combine flour and fat in a mixing bowl and rub the fat between your fingers until you have small beads of fat and plenty of pea-sized chunks (if you’re making a bigger batch, this can be done in a standing mixer with a paddle attachment — but remember not to paddle too much after you add the water, just enough so that it comes together. Add the ice water gradually and a good pinch of salt, and mix gently, just until combined — if you work the dough too hard it will become tough. Shape into two equal discs and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until ready to roll.

The dough can be used raw with other ingredients as with an apple pie. But often you’ll need to bake the shell first, as for a quiche or when cooking a liquid batter. This is called blind baking.

To blind bake a crust, you need to fill the shell with something heavy to prevent the crust from buckling up. Pie weights are made specifically for this, but a layer of aluminum foil and a pound of dried beans reserved for just this purpose does the job well. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Weight the bottom of your shell with pie weights or beans and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove the weights or beans and continue baking until the crust is golden brown and cooked through, another 15 minutes or so.

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2 thoughts on “Spinach, Onion, and Feta Quiche

  1. Great breakfast or brunch item I made this on Christmas morning with great success. I used all cream in my rendition and hickory smoked ham instead of bacon. Delicious!

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